Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thingish Things

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
                                                        - T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets

I ran into a poet friend of mine the other day in the corridor outside of the campus Starbucks. We chatted a little bit about day-to-day things-- students, grading, family and so on. Soon the conversation wandered to a comparison of science and poetry. She surprised me by saying that she thought the intentions of the scientist and the poet were pretty much the same, a view that I suspect is not shared by many scientists or poets. I had a hunch that we were in agreement but just to be sure, I asked her to describe the intent of a poet. She replied “The poet tries to go someplace new and discover what is there.” (I am trying to recall her exact words; that is, no doubt, a paraphrase)


That is pretty much exactly what a scientist does, although a scientist would probably use different words. Maybe something like, “A scientist probes the physical world to determine the underlying principles.”

As my friend was elaborating on her ideas, it occurred to me that my intention as a photographer is exactly the same as her poet and my scientist —to look at something in a new way and discover what it really looks like.

And then a new thought occurred to me.

Here it is:

The basis of all creativity is the quest to discover something new in the world that we inhabit everyday--to look beyond the obvious and see what lies just beyond our normal vision. And then to make something out of it, partly to preserve the discovery and partly to share it.

I have no idea if this concept is even remotely original, but I just thought of it and it feels correct.  Still, I can't help wondering if you are rolling your eyes or tsk-tsking at me, as in "Tsk-Tsk, Deb. You really just thought of that?"  I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes from Winnie the Pooh, "When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."  This may be one of those moments.  Maybe my new Thing is not so very Thingish after all.


Al and I went to see the great guitarist, Jeff Beck, last week. It was an amazing concert; amazing for both the quality and variety of the music.  Time and time again, he took a familiar melody to new places and discovered something completely unique. Sharing that discovery with the audience, he gave us the opportunity to hear the song in a totally new way.  Sounds familiar, no?

We humans seem have a penchant for exploration and discovery and the drive to create things that reflect our perceptions of the world in tangible form. The great intellectual, artistic and technical achievements are just different manifestations of that drive.  No one better than the other.  Much more alike than different. 

Everything's different, but it's all the same.

Today I am grateful for all of those manifestations of the very human need to create.  

1 comment:

  1. ah, Deb. Your observations - and your writing -are such a delight to read! (Would I be going out on a branch to guess at the identity of the poet?)